DENVER (AP)—A little too old, a little too pricey, Royce Clayton was the kind of player the Colorado Rockies decided they’d have to do without this season. Oh, what the Rockies would have given to have him wearing their uniform Thursday night, instead of Arizona’s.
Clayton made a brilliant play on Todd Greene’s sharply hit grounder to start a double play in the seventh, preserving a one-run lead and sparking the Diamondbacks to a 6-3 victory.
“Clayton’s play may have been the best play we have seen this year,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “That ball was not catchable, and it short hops, and somehow he gets his glove up and turns it into a double play.”
Lance Cormier relieved Russ Ortiz (3-2) with two on in the bottom of the inning and a two-run lead. After an RBI groundout by Preston Wilson, Greene came up and hit a bullet to short. Clayton snared it, threw to Craig Counsell and Counsell retired the slow-running catcher with ease.
“That ball was absolutely leaned on,” said Todd Helton, who was on second when it shot past him. “I don’t know if he could make that play again. It was a 1-in-100 chance, but the reason he did it is because he’s a heck of a defender.”
It was precisely the kind of play that justified Arizona spending $1.3 million to sign the 35-year-old shortstop in the offseason, and precisely the kind of play the rebuilding Rockies, who fell to 9-23, haven’t made enough of this season.
Their bigger problems in this loss, though, came at the plate, where they stranded 12 runners and wasted another strong start by Chacon.
Chacon allowed three runs and six hits over eight innings. His ERA actually crept up a bit, to 3.28, but he is still by far Colorado’s most unfortunate starter. The Rockies have averaged only three runs in his six starts.
“It’s frustrating, but that’s my job, to go out and keep us in the ballgame,” Chacon said.
Cruz hit his third and fourth homers of the season just three days after coming off the disabled list with a strained lower back. Before the game, Melvin said he was concerned about playing Cruz on a night like Thursday—with temperatures in the low 50s and a chilly wind blowing in from left field.
The back didn’t take too much strain in this one, though.
“I didn’t have to run too much today,” Cruz said. “Jogging around the bases was all right.”
Brandon Lyon pitched the ninth for Arizona, allowing one run. It was not a save situation, however, so Lyon wasn’t able to add to his major league-leading total of 13.
Ortiz, meanwhile, allowed eight hits and two runs over six-plus innings of a tight battle with Chacon. The Arizona pitcher extended his winning streak to five games against Colorado; his last loss to the Rockies came May 24, 2002, when he was with San Francisco.
Playing in front of an announced crowd of 18,184—the smallest in Coors Field history—Helton continued to emerge from his early season slump, with three hits, including a solo homer in the third. He is 18-for-42 with three homers and seven RBIs in May.
But the rest of the Rockies continue to struggle hitting in the clutch. They were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“If anyone finds a big two-out grand slam on the way home, drop it off in my office,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’ll be looking for one on the way home.”
Helton started the day batting .307, the first time he’s been above .300 since April 17. … After leading the major leagues with 139 errors last season, Arizona has committed 14 this year—on pace to make only 64. … Clark’s pinch-hit home run was the third of his nine-year career.
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